Submission on National Human Rights Action Plan

March 14, 2012

We have released a submission in response to the National Human Rights Action Plan. The Action Plan forms part of a suite of human rights policy documents developed by the Australian Government in recent years which set out the status of human rights in Australia, priorities for reform, and steps to implementation. Among other things, the Action plan identifies climate change as a ‘priority for human rights action’ and identifies the Clean Energy Future plan as the tool for addressing possible human rights abuses in this context.

We have welcomed this inclusion. It reflects an acknowledgement by Government of the links between environmental harm and human rights – principles affirmed at international law and supported in comparative jurisdictions like the UK and New Zealand. For example, by by regulating carbon emissions, air quality will improve, temperature and sea level rises may be mitigated, and the likely increases in health problems will be addressed – all great things for our right to the highest attainable standard of health and our right to the highest attainable standard of living.

But we are concerned that the Government doesn’t use the Clean Energy Future plan as a catch-all for addressing the human rights implications of climate change. For starters, it isn’t enough to achieve the Government’s 5 per cent emissions reduction target – further actions need to be taken to achieve this, and, by extension, to protect the human rights of affected persons. Also, climate change is only one element in a spectrum of environmental damage that does, and will continue to, undermine human rights.

For this reason, we recommend that the priorities for human rights actions under the Action Plan should extend to environmental rights more broadly – including the right to the highest attainable standard of health. To read the submission click here. For more information about the Action Plan and related policy go to the Human Rights Law Centre's page.

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